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Written by a Socialist

Steve Levine's recent rant ["Blame the Liberals," July 11] has to be one of the most absurd and counter-factual I've seen in some time. And I've seen a lot.

For one thing, no one is forcing beliefs (or unbelief) down Levine's or any of his Christian brethren's throats. For his information, the original Pledge was written in 1892 by a Socialist, Francis Bellamy, and without the words "under God." In effect, the pledge as it stands today is a corrupted and bastardized version of that original.

I say that because the reason for adding the offending words (in 1954) was one of political expediency. The same sort of expediency Levine accuses the Dems of employing today to cynically garner votes. At that time Eisenhower and Congress pushed for it -- after a Knights of Columbus campaign, to show the McCarthyite fanatics the U.S. of A. was different from Russia and its "godless communism."

Secondly, blaming an atheist for "using his daughter" to get the ruling is a totally baseless conjecture. Levine has not one iota of evidence to support his claim, and without that, he is in no position to question anyone's motives, least of all Michael Newdow's.

Lastly, if Levine were really worried about his welfare, he'd look not at atheism but at the corporate government that worships only a money god -- leaving all human and humane values in the dust as it grabs ever more profit.

-- Phil Stahl

Colorado Springs

Name-calling, not hate

I just read the nonsense written by Steve Levine in the July 11 issue of the Independent. What an idiot! I do not have a preference as to whether or not "under God" is said during the Pledge of Allegiance. I do agree with him that a young child does not know the difference and the parent is using the daughter to get his beliefs heard.

What I don't agree with is his obvious hate towards liberals. I am a liberal, always have been, always will be. I disagree on most issues with conservatives, however I do not hate them.

I am bothered that the compassionate conservative has so much hate for his liberal brother/sister. Why is that, Mr. Levine? Do they only have compassion for their own? That is not what this country was founded on. Nor is it what God teaches his followers.

If Mr. Levine wants to live in a country where there is only one belief, he needs to be packing his bags and catching the first flight outta here, because America is not that country. He is obviously so full of hate, he can't see or think straight. I feel sorry for him. Lighten up, Mr. Levine.

-- Carol A. Hull

Colorado Springs

Not in their class

According to the daily, Mayor Mary Lou Makepeace spent $150 a night at the Hilton Madison; her tax-paid breakfast cost $6.95, a latte was $2.50.

In addition, Councilman James Null spent $63.64 for printer ink; another $1,260 for conferences at Vail, Breckenridge and Snowmass.

Council members Jim Null, Charles Wingate and Richard Skorman recently attended the annual National League of Cities Conference, where, for nine years in a row, absolutely nothing has happened. Airline tickets cost $1600.50. Hotel bill was $1,080. Null's room-service dinner cost $42.63. His breakfast with Skorman was $37.68. Null spent another $3.69 for a Starbucks grand latte, including 30 cents for "add syrup."

In January, Councilman Ted Eastburn paid $19.30 for dinner; ate a $17.37 breakfast at the Hyatt Regency.

Have any of these important trips benefited Colorado Springs any?

Wingate had, by far, the lowest expense bill for food. Wingate must have spent a whole $10. Shame on you, Wingate; you just are not in these people's class. No wonder they want you out.

Stay in there, Wingate. You are the only honest councilperson fighting for 80 percent of America. You will make history in America. Forget about these corrupt individuals. Let these worthless bodies dig their own graves, simply ignore them, and continue the great job you are presently doing.

There are a lot of people out there rooting for you, so don't let them down. You can do it and we are all very proud of you. Have a good day.

-- Kendell Kretzschmar

Colorado Springs

They are shouting it

Though I rarely agree with their positions, I truly respect the careful accuracy and dependable synthesis of the Freethinkers' essays each week in the Independent.

Not only do I respect their efforts, I have grown to expect their precise use of history and documents. So I was dismayed to see what I consider blatant intellectual dishonesty in their July 4 advertisement by Groff Schroeder.

Groff quotes the First Amendment as follows: "Congress shall make no law regarding the establishment of religion." When we place words in quotes, we are supposed to quote them accurately. Words are powerful. Even minor or subtle changes can cause huge differences in meaning. The proper quote is: "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion."

Groff's misquote was clear, and worse, he based his entire thesis on it. We have no state-established denomination in this country per the First Amendment. Never have and never will.

I would not argue with Groff that the phrase "under God" by its very words establishes religion in general. It admits and professes the existence of a deity. But it does not violate the First Amendment by promoting any denomination over another. Further it does not promote any general creed over another.

The Pledge was modified in 1954 to reflect the overwhelming sentiment of the nation's population. On July 4 this year, the Sky Sox had a ballgame. Afterwards, a Boy Scout Troop from Kansas led the record sellout crowd in the Pledge of Allegiance.

The crowd heartily shouted the phrase "under God," seemingly to proclaim that our collective hearts have not changed since 1954. Some may call this the tyranny of the majority, but seeking to force that majority not to say a phrase in public can only serve to further marginalize those who see themselves as marginalized by popular sentiment.

What do anti-theists think will happen if they succeed in removing the phrase? Will people just let it fade away? Now people are not merely saying it. They are shouting it!

The reaction to the voices of people who feel marginalized by religion shows a backlash that is counterproductive to the goals of people like the Freethinkers. Misusing the Constitution won't help that.

-- Joe Oppelt

Colorado Springs

Grown-up germs

Big surprise. After decades of the government schools, media and other "freethinkers" preaching that life is meaningless, suicide becomes epidemic ["We Want Luke's Life to Count," June 6].

Think about it. If we are nothing more than grown-up germs, a cosmic accident and our destiny is annihilation, how is it that we are supposed to find significance in between? Humanists can pretend that there is some meaning to life, but it is nothing more than a psychological crutch that falls away after even brief introspection.

The masses numb themselves with the opiates of entertainment, drugs, alcohol and, of course, sex, but for many this will not keep the hopelessness at bay.

We are left with Jean Paul Sartre's conclusion that the last great question in philosophy is that of suicide. Your average Joes on the street may not be able to articulate the source of their emptiness in academic terms, but it is certainly expressed in our increasingly nihilistic culture, amoral attitudes and, for some, suicide.

Depression's etiology is multifactorial and being a theist does not necessarily prevent depression or suicide. The human mind can become depressed by significant loss, prolonged stress and lack of sleep. Genetics certainly plays a role as well.

I remain convinced however that the existential impact of living in a Godless universe is a critical component in many people's depression.

-- Douglas Hammerstrom, MD

Colorado Springs

Part of the solution

Thank you for your thoughtful article about the current suicide epidemic. My heart goes out to Dan Taylor and others touched by this worrisome public-health problem. As was noted, raising awareness is the necessary first step to reducing the number of "permanent solutions to temporary problems" and the article will help the community become more educated about risks and possible help.

Thanks, too, for always having the local hotline number as part of your back page. I am a volunteer for the hotline and know how important it is to let folks know there are people ready to help.

With more volunteers, the suicide prevention hotline could be available 24/7 (currently the hours are 6 p.m. to 6 a.m. weekdays and 24 hours from Friday thought Sunday night).

Volunteers work a couple shifts a month and take calls that have been forwarded to their home. Training and support are thorough and ongoing. It is occasionally challenging but always rewarding. Often we just listen, give out information and referrals.

In addition you meet other caring, kind people from all walks of life and learn a lot about human behavior. If you can sign up, call 573-7447.

Finally, all callers to the hotline are guaranteed anonymity and privacy. Volunteers are also expected to remain anonymous, so please omit my name.

-- Satisfied volunteer

Colorado Springs

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